Neurodiversity Celebration Week sheds light on neuro-inclusive workplaces

The outline of the brain with the inscription neurodiversity is surrounded by coloured cubes.

Holly Biggs looks at research that reminds us to foster an improved workplace for our neurodivergent employees for humanitarian reasons, but also because it’s good business

In a world that thrives on diversity, recognising and celebrating differences has become a cornerstone of progressive societies. One such celebration that takes centre stage is Neurodiversity Celebration Week, 18-24 March 2024.

Society often measures success by conformity; Neurodiversity Celebration Week encourages us to embrace and celebrate neuro-different individuals for the rich tapestry of skills and talents

With research from Deloitte finding that companies with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile, this week is not just a token acknowledgment but a call to action for employers to evaluate and enhance the neuro-inclusivity of their workplaces. As we dive into this celebration, the spotlight is on the unique strengths and perspectives that neuro-distinct individuals bring to the table.

Creating the best working environment

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is more than just a symbolic gesture; it’s a concerted effort to foster understanding, acceptance, and appreciation for neurological differences. The week encourages employers to reflect on their workplace environments, identifying areas where inclusivity can be improved. The aim is not merely compliance but the cultivation of environments where individuals with diverse neurological profiles can thrive.

Employers are urged to utilise Neurodiversity Celebration Week as an opportunity for introspection, asking themselves, ‘how neuro-inclusive is our workplace?’.

By law, employers have to accommodate and protect their workers via a multitude of regulations. A prime example is the ‘The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992’. Via this regulation, employers are required to provide colleagues with adjustable computer monitors, chairs and other resources to ensure the individual has a safe and efficient working environment suited to their physical needs.

But have you ever considered adjustments to meet your workforce’s neurological needs? Are there policies and practices in place that accommodate neuro-distinct employees? After all, recruitment and progression within the workplace is often based upon an individual’s cognitive strengths above all else.

This week provides an excellent chance to review and revise existing frameworks to ensure that all employees, regardless of their neurological makeup, can contribute meaningfully and feel valued. With 68% of employees choosing not to disclose their neurodiversity to their workplace, and 65% of them fearing discrimination from management, we know there’s work to be done.

Start as you mean to go on

To truly embrace neurodiversity, workplaces can implement a range of changes to provide a level playing field for their workforce; But to do so, many businesses seek a robust starting point and efficient process thereafter.

Some things to consider include:

  • Does your organisation cognitively assess and map your workforce?

  • Do your neuro-distinct colleagues have a safe and structed process for accessing reasonable adjustments even without disclosing their neuro-differences?

  • Are your managers trained to ensure they can support their neuro-distinct team members to thrive?

  • Are you utilising the, potentially hidden, skills of your neuro-distinct colleagues?

  • Do you provide workplace adjustments to cater to the needs of your neuro-distinct colleagues, enabling them to thrive in their role?

A 2020 McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 25%. Whilst those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 36%. With this direct evidence that diversity leads to concrete results, imagine what the correct utilisation of your neurodiverse workforce could achieve.

Celebrating unique skills

Neuro-distinct individuals are said to bring a plethora of unique skills and perspectives to the workplace. Traits such as attention to detail, pattern recognition, creativity, and hyperfocus are often associated with neurodiverse conditions such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. These attributes can be invaluable in various industries, contributing to increased efficiency, problem-solving, and innovation.

Brain and graphs with calculations inside as a symbol of analytical thinking.

In a society that often measures success by conformity, Neurodiversity Celebration Week encourages us to embrace and celebrate neuro-different individuals for the rich tapestry of skills and talents they bring to the workplace. By doing so, we not only create more inclusive work environments but also harness the full potential of diverse minds.

Research has consistently shown that neuro-distinct individuals can excel in roles that require attention to detail and analytical thinking. Their ability to hyperfocus allows them to delve deeply into complex tasks, often leading to enhanced productivity and efficiency. Rather than viewing neurodiverse traits as hindrances, employers are encouraged to recognise and leverage these qualities to benefit their teams and organisations as a whole.

Chris Quickfall, CEO and Founder of Cognassist, a pioneering neuro-inclusion platform, states:

‘Following my dyslexia diagnosis as a young adult, I was provided with an invaluable insight in to my cognition. This enabled me to work with my educators and employers to establish the adjustable environment I needed to thrive. These actions and adaptations instantly made me more capable, productive, and able to excel in a working environment.

Providing individuals with the opportunity to thrive via a sophisticated solution, enabling them to reach out for support without concern about their employers potential response, is just the beginning. Establishing adjustable working environments, to support the strengths of your neuro-distinct workforce, will not only ensure equal opportunities for everyone, but undoubtedly increase colleague wellbeing, retention, collaboration and efficiencies across any business.

I’ve seen and benefitted from how to do this successfully, and now Cognassist is doing just that – helping employers create a neuro-inclusive adjustable workplace.’

The strategic advantage

As Neurodiversity Celebration Week unfolds, it serves as a poignant reminder that embracing neurodiversity is not just a moral imperative, but a strategic advantage for any organisation. The celebration prompts employers to assess, adapt and implement changes that foster an inclusive environment, benefiting both the workforce and organisation.

Via a holistic approach and leveraging tools employers can ensure they have the necessary knowledge to create and neuro-inclusive workplace.

As we celebrate Neurodiversity Celebration Week, let it be a catalyst for lasting change, inspiring workplaces around the world to become beacons of neuro-inclusivity; Not only to embrace diversity but also harness the immense potential that neuro-different individuals bring to the table.

Holly Biggs is Senior Marketing Manager at Cognassist, a platform for neuro-inclusive workplace solutions. See their Neurodiversity Celebration Week events and resources

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